Increasingly reactive 9 month old to people - hackles, backing off - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-19-2016, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Increasingly reactive 9 month old to people - hackles, backing off

Hello.

I have had 3 dogs (GSD) in the past that did NOT do this and am somewhat concerned. I felt I was doing the same thing with this one....

My male is now almost 9 months old. Intact . Does well in the house. Soft temperament and awesome with my 7 year old and kids. Very obedient (well...quite) and responsive to verbal commands. Walks well on leash , loves cars, swims, does stairs, has gone into large crowds , seen shopping carts , canes, umbrellas and goes for walks through downtown.....

BUT...he is highly reactive around the house with strangers. Hackles up, high pitch barking and backing off. Nervous behaviour. Shy. He will also do this if someone new approaches on leash.

He is very affectionate with the people in his family and also with my friends and babysitters that he knows. We have cleaners that come in and he is fine with them.

No signs of dominance. Just shyness with people. (he is a bit shy with dogs with hackles etc but then breaks into play with the 5 or 6 he has met....)

On leash if a person approaches he is "fine" (wary) until they try come close. Then there is then a chance he backs away and does one bark.

So....we have a confidence issue with this pup correct? Territory??

I need to correct this behaviour because i may need dog letouts etc and he can't do this hackle and backing off thing with strangers. We also have a trailer and I can't have him going off if someone comes on our "lot".

He loves to retrieve and also to tug.

He will be starting scent detection course shortly.

How do I help him gain the confidence he needs to be less reactive to strangers? I thought i had done the right things but clearly I am missing something.

Thanks for your help.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-19-2016, 03:00 PM
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It's possible that it's genetic in which case you can help him manage his fear and show him how to relax.My shepherd is distrustful of strangers and I've learned how to help him with great success.

Another possibility is it's leash reactivity,which I have zero experience with.Some other members here do and will hopefully chime in.Is he only reactive when leashed or tethered?

Terri

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Misty Husky Mix
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Devo Yorkie Mix at the bridge
Dakota Wht GSD at the bridge
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-19-2016, 03:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. It is NOT only leash reactivity. He will do it if a worker is in yard and he is loose....hackles and barking and keeping away....alerting but scared. Good question though

How did you help your boy with success?
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-19-2016, 06:30 PM
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After conferring with folks on here, reading books,watching videos by trainers and behaviorists, I decided he needed to feel safe in order to relax.When we were out somewhere on leash,I corrected his growl with a leash pop,gave the "look at me" command,gave him a high value treat.If we passed another person too closely and he tensed up,I directed him behind me or on the other side of me.If I stopped to have a conversation I directed him behind me where he would sit or lay down.I didn't allow anyone to pet him and I blocked them from making eye contact with him.I tossed him an occasional treat for his calm behavior.
He became very comfortable with that system very quickly,and would slip behind me and show no signs of tension at all.His comfort zone was about four feet away from the scary strangers.Eventually he started making overtures to strangers,sniffing and allowing pets.

At home he will alert bark,I give the quiet command,acknowledge whatever he's alerting about,then give him something else to do so he won't dwell on it.He alerts,I handle it.

He's two years old now,calm around strangers and other animals.He still prefers not to be touched by strangers unless its his idea.But he tolerates it if I need him to.It took about a year to get to that point,but if we lived in town instead of the country it would have been faster probably.We had to make an effort to get around people to practice.

Anyway,this worked out well for us.I never wanted to force him to interact.My feeling was if I don't acknowledge his discomfort and give him a comfort zone,he may resort to biting to escape the frightening stranger.Sort of like draping a python on someone with a snake phobia.Best of luck to you as you work through this and please update as you go along!
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Terri

Samson Blk/Slvr GSD. RN
Misty Husky Mix
Z-Z Terrier/potato mix
Devo Yorkie Mix at the bridge
Dakota Wht GSD at the bridge
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-19-2016, 08:52 PM
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Well dogma13, pretty much spelled it out the process, and I think I can provide a how to guide. Your dog sounds very much like mine??
My guy greeted company with a Cold Hard stare and a low growl??? Clearly not a people person???

Ok then no big deal, meet and greet was off the table "Place" in the home and keeping people out of his face it was. Train place first, use a muzzle and drag leash, in public if need be, you'll feel better and the dog is less likely to add a fool. None of the Cesar meet and greet at the door to negotiate the entrance of people into the home, for me. Dog goes to "Place" and stays there ,your job is to keep company out of his face! If you can't or won't do that ... in the Crate you go!

So step one work with the dog in front of you ... if he seems not to be a fan of people ...no big deal, if you are willing to accept that?? Dealing with it looks like the second link here:

https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/5296377-post8.html

The rest is as "Dogma" explained you" need to learn to say "No, you can't pet my dog" show him how you expect him to behave! When meeting people his job is to do "nothing!" "Walking the dog to find people to ignore" is required, use a muzzle if you chose, a few encounters over a period of time, dog at your side or behind you and the dog will get it. Dad/Mom has my back ... no problem here. Once you understand and recognize how your dog looks when he is calm, then you can lose the muzzle ... the term we came up with here is "Bubble Dog" a dog that needs a protective "Bubble" around him until he is safe in public ...no big deal.

Part two ... The Place Command and Sit on the Dog" they train calmness into a Dog. And while others may disagree ... I used "Place" in the home with Company. My Dog goes to "Place" and does not move, period end of story! My job ... keep company out of his face! Don't even freaking ask! Family friends whoever ... I don't care. And I was eyes on, if you can't ensure that ... put him in his Crate. Not a fan of tricking people into my Dog's face with treats myself, "my" way worked out fine .. so I'm good with that.

"Sit on the Dog" ... find an area with distractions (People) off to the side and you people watch. Take the leash and sit on it, tell the dog "nothing" no corrections, no commands. You stop and you sit ... this is how it is dog, deal with it as it were. Details are here:
Fearful, Anxious or Flat Crazy "The Place CommanD - Boxer Forum : Boxer Breed Dog Forums

So if your willing to work with the dog in front of you and not treat him like a lab and stuff ie "my dog likes everybody!!" Then ... the people thing is no big deal ...been there done that ... worked out fine. As always ... ask questions and welcome aboard.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-20-2016, 07:14 PM Thread Starter
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Wow. Many cool links...the long down being a tool? Never thought about things that way.

And sure i "want" him to be happy and a people fan but realize he may not ever end up like that....

I will need time to read and reread and develop an action plan.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 05:20 AM Thread Starter
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Question already - seems like "sit on the dog" and "place" are good places for me to start. He is overly reactive around the home and property and I am terrified to take him to the trailer as someone may "come on the property". I assume that the sit on dog and place will be helpful for this issue.

FYI - took him to horse show with my son yesterday. He was laying down at my feet, my son was all over him playing with his tail and belly (both in heaven)...my trainer (maybe he has seen her one time) came up to me and started to talk and sat down. He doesn't bother moving.....she comes and says....Hi to dog and he gets up and sniffs and wags tail...others from barn (that he really doesn't know) come over and pat him. He is unstressed and social. Goes back to his grass rolling etc after the social pats and tail wags.

Now...YES. This likely was incorrect as my intent was to have him go and to "ignore" all comers. To keep him "safe". But there is a situation where he responded perfectly well. Confused.

Do I take him places and have no one touch him? How will I know "how" he will respond?

Also...he is crated if I am away. How on earth can I desensitize to someone "new" letting him out? He will of course bark and raise hackles and terrify someone new. So far no info I have read has addressed that issue.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 05-21-2016, 12:33 PM
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For pete's sake of he's being friendly to people that's wonderful!No problem there.Must be particular situations that make him tense and reactive so you deal with those as they come up.
As for new people dealing with your dog(dog sitter?) I have no advice.I wouldn't let it happen but I'm not in your situation so can't comment helpfully.

Terri

Samson Blk/Slvr GSD. RN
Misty Husky Mix
Z-Z Terrier/potato mix
Devo Yorkie Mix at the bridge
Dakota Wht GSD at the bridge
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